LGBT organizations allied with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro are petitioning the country’s Foreign Ministry to grant political asylum to LGBT Ugandan citizens.
The move comes after a new anti-homosexuality bill was passed by Ugandan parliament last week which threatens life imprisonment for people caught engaging in homosexual acts repeatedly.
Venezuela’s official government news channel AVN announced on Wednesday (25 December) the groups would urge the Foreign Ministry to ‘suspend any type of collaboration or plans to strengthen a relationship with Uganda by making a public statement addressed to the international community and Uganda and to grant political asylum to gay Ugandans’.
Members of LGBT groups including the Hugo Chávez Command for Sexual Diversity, Equality Venezuela and the Venezuelan United Socialist Party Youth Committee handed a written statement to a government representative on Thursday (26 December).
In an interview with EFE news agency, LGBT activist and university lecturer Chea Rodrizuez said: ‘The reason we came to the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry is that we do not consider the Bolivarian Government to be just any government at this time in the world - at least among third world countries. This is a country that has great influence.’
He hopes the Venezuelan government will be able to apply enough pressure to force Ugandan authorities to reconsider the new law, which also requires people in authority to report homosexual offenses within 24 hours or face imprisonment for three years or a fine.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni is yet to sign the bill and make it law, and has said he will check it carefully before doing so: ‘I will first go through it, if I find that it is right I will sign but if I find that it is not right I will send it back to parliament.’
Yesterday (Friday 27 December) the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called on Museveni not to sign the bill. Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the High Commissioner’s office, warned the new law would not only impact the fundamental rights of LGBT Ugandans, but also ‘on the work of human rights defenders and efforts to address HIV/AIDS in the country’.
She added that if Museveni signed the law, it ‘would reinforce stigma and prejudice, and institutionalize discrimination’.